Study: Poor Health Literacy Detrimental to Patient Health Outcomes

Posted 21 March 2012 | By Alexander Gaffney, RAC 

A new study in the British Medical Journal has found that limited health literacy was associated with higher rates of death among study participants.

The study tracked nearly 8,000 patients over the age of 52, and sought to understand the effects of health literacy on patient health.

To do this, the study asked patients to read the label of a medicine bottle and answer four simple questions, such as the maximum number of days a medicine may be taken and situations requiring the consultation of a physician.

A third of patients were unable to answer all four questions correctly despite the answers being on the medicine bottle, while 12.5% answered incorrectly to half or more of the questions.

The researchers tracked this group for the next five years. Those patients with the worst health literacy-answering at least half of the questions incorrectly-were considerably more likely to die.

Only six percent of those who answered all questions correctly died during the subsequent five years, while nine percent of those answering one question wrong died and sixteen percent of those answering at least two questions wrong died.

"The findings should remind all healthcare professionals to adopt effective communication techniques for patients with low health literacy. The design and delivery of health related services for older adults in England should be sensitive to the limited health literacy capabilities within this population." said study author Sophie Bostock.

Read more:

Medical news Today - Older People With Poorer Reading Skills Have Higher Mortality Risk

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